Getting Fit in Middle-Age: Is Running Right for You?

Running is a great exercise for people of all ages, but you may be wondering if running is the right fit for your new exercise routine.  After carefully considered the benefits and risks before starting an exercise routine at 41, I am very happy I choose running as it has helped me reach new levels of fitness and achieve some exciting goals.

As a general rule, most people can run or learn to run in middle-age safely.  While running is a great full body workout with many health benefits, it may not be the best exercise for everyone.  Some health conditions can put one at greater risk which is why it is always best to consult a physician before beginning an exercise program.    

Before embarking on running as your main form of exercise there are some things to consider since it is a high-impact and high-intensity workout.  Keep reading to find out exactly why consulting a physician is recommended and how it can still be a great way to get in shape.

Why Check with your doctor before starting to run?

Certain health conditions can put you at greater risk when you begin a high intensity exercise program.  If you are in older it is best to have a check-up and get cleared with your doctor first.  Read below for some of the conditions that may put you at high risk.

Heart Disease

Heart Disease is the primary reason for concern for anyone starting a workout program.  Every adult has some plague build-up and the older you are, the more you likely have.  The danger lies in advanced build-up and suddenly beginning to exercise heavily.

Exercise is great medicine and running can be a great way to prevent heart disease, but too much and/or too soon can put one at greater risk.  The American Heart Association recommends a slow and steady approach for activities that can put one at higher risk. 

Besides age, there are certain risk factors to consider such as being overweight or having a family history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease.  If you have any of the above risk factors, you should definitely have a health checkup.


High-impact weight bearing exercises may not be safe for ones suffering from osteoporosis.  Depending on the severity of your osteoporosis, fitness level, and general health your doctor may or may not recommend running as an appropriate exercise.

Running is generally good for building bone density as it is a weight-bearing exercise.  However, it is easy to overdo it and stress fractures are a common injury even for healthy young runners.  Your doctor may recommend a low-impact exercise that can still build bone density without the risk of fractures.

Knee Pain

No matter the reason for your knee pain, it is best to get cleared with a doctor before starting a running plan.  This is not to say you can’t still run or that you will never be able to run, but running could prevent your knee from healing properly or increase the pain you already have.

Knee pain is a common injury for runners.  While there can be different reasons for the pain, most usually stem from poor form.  If you are experiencing any knee pain, it will be difficult to run with proper form which can lead to more injury.

Most ailments concerning the knees for runners require time off from running until the injury heals.  If you already suffer from knee pain, consider strategies and exercises runners do to keep in shape while strengthening the knee to prevent future injury.

Knee pain is not a deal killer if you plan to start running. You should seek medical advice and address these issues before beginning to run.

Reasons why running is great for getting in shape in middle-age

Running is a full-body workout for strengthening the heart and lungs while building bone density and strong muscles.  Since running is both a cardio and weight-bearing activity you get more physical benefits out of each workout.

Running is great for brain health.  It has been shown to promote creativity and increase mental clarity.  As we age, we may notice we aren’t as quick as we used to be.  Aerobic exercise, such as running, has been shown in studies to increase memory and protect the brain from disease.

Running can reduce inflammation and help with arthritis.  It has been known for some time that exercise can decrease chronic inflammation, but new research shows why it can benefit those with arthritis. 

Running is great for weight management as it stokes the metabolism.  There is no better way to keep your weight in check during middle-age when the pounds seem to sneakily hang on, then to run.  It is one of the best calorie-burning exercises out there and you continue to burn calories even after your run. 

It doesn’t require a lot of time for all the benefits you get.  You can generally reap the most benefits with 30-40 minutes three days a week. Some studies found even found as little as 20 minutes twice a week has significant health benefits. For more information on how much beginner runners should run see my article here.

Other activities to get in shape or support a running program

Aqua Running

Aqua running/jogging has grown in popularity over the years as you can get a great cardio workout with little stress or strain on the joints.  Because it mimics the motion of running it can improve running form while maintaining and improving cardio performance.  It is frequently used by runners during rehab if they are unable to run. 

Strength Training

Strength training, weight training, or weight-bearing exercises are extremely important as we age.  It can combat all kinds of age-related health issues such as decreases in muscle mass, bone density, and metabolism. 

A good strength training program can support the muscles and bones which aids in injury prevention if or when you start running.  Runners should include some strength training once or twice a week to support and build strong muscles.

Key Takeaways

Almost any exercise activity you engage in during middle-age will reap benefits and led to you becoming fitter.  Running is a popular activity due to its convenience, simplicity, and all the benefits to the mind, body, and spirit. For some helpful tips before starting to run see my article here.

As running is a high-intensity and high-impact sport it may not be the best exercise for you.  Certain conditions can put one at greater risk for injury, but most can engage safely in a running routine if you start out slow and get cleared by your physician.

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